North Cyprus travel information, including maps of North Cyprus, food, drink and where to stay in North Cyprus plus the best time to travel in North Cyprus
North Cyprus packs a real punch for a country that doesn’t exist. Not recognised by the United Nations, the Turkish-ruled half of the isle of Cyprus sits swathed in eastern Mediterranean sunshine and diplomatic uncertainty, divided into Greek southern Cyprus and the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus since 1973.
To the passing traveller, this political intrigue adds further interest to an already fascinating island. North Cyprus is littered with ancient ruins – sprawling Salamis is the main site, but you’ll discover smaller remains all over the place. The beaches on North Cyprus are some of the least developed in the Med, and frequented by nesting turtles in summer. Inland in North Cyprus there are mountains to climb, some topped by Crusader castles, while the untouched Karpaz Peninsula is like a step back in time, the place to forget politics and instead make cheese, play backgammon and drink thick black coffee with the welcoming locals.
- Learn to make local crafts and food at North Cyprus’s first eco-village, Büyükkonuk
- Walk through the no man’s land between the Greek and Turkish halves of Nicosia/Lefkosa, Cyprus’s divided capital
- Sit in a taverna looking out over the pretty harbour at Kyrenia (Girne)
- Stroll the undeveloped, 5km sweep of Golden Sands beach, on the Karpaz Peninsula
- Explore the loftily perched Crusader castles in the Kyrenia range – St Hilarion Castle, Buffavento Castle and Kantara Castle
- Wander amid the extensive 3,000-year-old seaside Roman ruins at Salamis
- Get off the beaten track – some areas of North Cyprus are being developed apace but it’s still possible to find wonderful pockets of authentic Cypriot culture
- Be careful when talking politics to the locals – the subject of Turkish/Greek conflict is still too raw for some
- Pick up a copy of local guide Walks in North Cyprus, which has route maps for many lovely local hikes
- Do visit North Cyprus’s turtle beaches, but tread carefully and do not interfere with the animals.
Travel in North Cyprus: vital statistics
- Capital of North Cyprus: Lefkosa
- Population of North Cyprus: 265,100
- Languages in North Cyprus: Turkish
- Time in North Cyprus: GMT+2 (GMT+3 Mar-Oct)
- International dialling code in North Cyprus: +90 392
- Voltage in North Cyprus: 220/240 volts, 50 Hz
- Visas for North Cyprus: North Cyprus visas
- Money in North Cyprus: Turkish lira. Most larger towns have ATMs; carry plenty of cash if you’re heading to remoter areas. Small tips are appreciated.
- North Cyprus travel advice: Foreign & Commonwealth Office
- North Cyprus tourism board: North Cyprus Tourism Centre
When to go to North Cyprus
Summer (June-August) is hot in North Cyprus, with temperatures over 30°C. It’s also peak holiday season; resorts are packed. Spring and autumn are more pleasant, and good for walking; April and May see the North Cyprus hills covered in wildflowers. Turtles can be seen on North Cyprus’s beaches: females come ashore to lay in May, with eggs hatching a month or two later. Winter, from December to March can be cold, especially in the mountains.
North Cyprus international airports
Ercan International (ECN) 14km from Lefkosa
Getting around in North Cyprus
Roads are generally good and distances short, so getting around North Cyprus is easy – though some country roads, especially on the Karpaz Peninsula, can be slow going, and just peter out. It’s best to hire a car, so you can explore properly. Or take your bike – this is great cycling country (though avoid the heat of summer). Local buses aren’t that useful in North Cyprus.
North Cyprus accommodation
There are plenty of package-hotel options in North Cyprus – fine, if characterless, and relatively inexpensive; most will have swimming pools. There are some stylish, top-end options in North Cyprus, especially around Kyrenia. Homestays aren’t common, but are on the up – look out for simple converted farmhouses on the Karpaz Peninsula. There are few campsites.
North Cyprus food & drink
When fresh and authentic North Cyprus food is delicious, a combination of Turkish and Greek influences, usually eaten in fairly fuss-free tavernas. Haloumi or hellim cheese is a speciality, tasty with olives, salad and pide (Turkish bread). Other typical North Cyprus dishes include kleftiko, slow-cooked lamb, and stifado, rich rabbit stew.
Kebabs and stews are common, but vegetarians will have enough dolmades (stuffed vine leaves), pilaf and aubergine concoctions to keep them well fed in North Cyprus. It can all be washed down with thick, strong Turkish coffee. For something stronger, try Efes beer, Cypriot wines or raki (the local firewater) – although North Cyprus is a Muslim country, alcohol is commonplace.
Health & safety in North Cyprus
No specific jabs are required for North Cyprus. Take sunscreen and a hat to combat the summer sun. Though not the most conservative Muslim society, you should show cultural consideration in North Cyprus, especially away from beach resorts. If walking in the countryside, be wary of snakes (there are three poisonous types on Cyprus) – wear boots and socks, and don’t put your hands into crevices. Tick-borne diseases can be caught in North Cyprus – wear repellent and check your body for ticks after your walk.
Further reading on travel in North Cyprus
- North Cyprus (Bradt, 2008)
- Cyprus (Lonely Planet, 2009)
- Cyprus (Rough Guides, 2009)
- Cyprus (DK Eyewitness, 2008)